Dordogne

Dordogne

This route features the greatest concentration of prehistoric sites in Europe. There are opportunities to visit renowned caves and see the cave paintings as well as spend time visiting some especially lovely towns and villages and visit Châteaux and even do some river paddling. There is something for the whole family.

Our flight arrived at Toulouse airport late in the day so we had picked a hotel that was nearby to spend the night. Next morning we were off for a ride into Toulouse itself, for a train connection to begin our Dordogne tour. We had been to Toulouse before on another ride along the Canal du Midi, so we were familiar with the well signed route into town.
Our journey today will continue by rail from here. We’ve reviewed the timetable and chosen this early departure with only one train change, to keep this as easy as possible.
We found the rail car and loaded our bikes and rode comfortably to Agen, where we had a wait of a few hours for our connecting train. This gave us time to have a meal and take a quick look around.
The train to the Dordogne region was very modern and easy for bike transport; no stairs.
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From the tiny rail station in Le Bugue, it was only about a kilometer into town. We easily found our hotel and after checking in and leaving our bags, we headed out to explore the town itself and a wonderful folk park at the edge of town.
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This is a pretty little town beside a river and a great place to start our tour.
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Stage One:  Le Bugue to Sergeac  33,3 km


It is a wonderful sunny morning and we anticipate a very warm day ahead and will be making several stops to investigate prehistoric caves along the way.
We leave town on the main road; but after just under 2km, we turn off onto Terre du Fontinelle; a lovely, quiet little road that seems to parallel the busy D road. It’s a great alternative. We ride on till we reach the rail track, where we will be riding beside with several crossing back and forth. This is Rue de Sourcier. We’ve decided to visit St Cirq, the Sourcer’s Cave, so, again, we cross the rail tracks at about 5,4km. This is a climb; but, well worth it. As we arrive at St Cirq, we get a glimpse of the lush area & the cliff overhangs where primitive man existed thousands of years ago. The only sounds today are birds and chicadias. There is a small fee to visit the cave and see the artifacts. We then retraced our ride down the hill and back beside the rail tracks. We will be entering a busy D road, shortly before we reach Les Eyzies. We cross the bridge over the river and ride right through town. We will be returning for a stay here later. This us a big tourist draw and there it a lot on traffic on this D road; but, the shear number funneling through has kept the pace slow. We’re still on Rue de Sourcier. The cliff are to our left and dotted with caves. Then we continue till we come to this T junction & we turn left and begin our second climb of the day; but not a bad one. We referred to this as Col de la Croix de Biscougx. At the top, we had some woods and some welcome shade from the heat. Also, some nice views of the valley below; before our descent. We ride through Tursac and then some rolling hills. We’re right beside some impressive cliffs as we near St Christophe on the D66 and then the D706. We’re following the signs and turning off right to visit La Roque St Christophe. La Roque St Christophe is one of most spectacular archeological sites in the world. This is a recommended must stop. Here, high above the river, you can really get an impression of what life was like, living with family and livestock in these caves and cautiously watching for the fearsome Viking invaders who venture south to take what they want.
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After a visit and lots of photos, we leave the parking area on a back road that is another climb. We’re on our way to Saint-Léon-sur-Vézère on the D66. We cross over this bridge over the Vézère and enter St Leon on a busy market day, so we wind slowly through the crowds who have come to shop the wide array of product. As we leave town, we are on the busy D706 as we climb with the auto traffic. We keep our small edge of the road. Then a downhill and some rolling hills through woods, till we reach Thonac. We pass through and at the roundabout, we leave the busy D706 and are on the D66. Whew! We cross over the Vézère River on a stone bridge. Right after the bridge we reach another road & we turn right toward Sergeac. We’re basically doubling back; because Sergeac is nearly across from Saint-Léon; but the only way to get there, unless you’re a pedestrian and you’re willing to walk through all the ruins & you’re not allowed to do that with your bicycle is to go past Saint-Léon to the bridge, cross over and double back. That said, we make our way through pretty little Sergeac and our lodging is just out of town on a hillside with a super view and great food. After checking in, we headed out on food on a small path, past woods and caves to double back and visit Saint-Léon. By the time we arrived, the Market was over for the day and the town was quiet. We returned back to on the quiet path and enjoyed a very special duck dinner, outside and with a spectacular view. Very memorable.
Next morning, we stopped in Sergeac to visit the Prehistoric Museum and it was really wonderful. The son of the archeologist who discovered so many of the artifacts here, took us through the museum and explained everything very slowly, so we could understand. At the time of our visit, he was in his 80’s.
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Stage Two:  Sergeac to Montignac  13,2

After this wonderful museum visit, we head out of Sergeac, past the 15th century cross, across the narrow one lane stone bridge over the Vézère river and retrace our steps to Thonac. We are making a side trip to visit Château de Losse. After nothing but warm temperatures and sunshine, it appears that we are in for some rain today. WE made this a short visit, just to the grounds and then headed back over the river to ride the opposite side. Here, we actually got a better glimpse of the Château de Losse from this side. The rain squall hit and we ducked under some trees to grab our raincoats. The rain did not last too long; but, the grey skies persisted. We’re on the D65 beside the Vézère river and it has just a few rolling hills. The traffic so far is not bad. Canoeists are out on the river and we see a few other cyclists as we ride on toward Montignac. This town stretches out on both sides of the river. We are staying just outside the center for our easy access to visit the Lascaux cave tomorrow. We checked in to our hotel and then headed into town to buy out entrance tickets for tomorrow’s visit. The ticket office is in town and not at the site. Next day we rode up to tour the Lascaux cave. Although this is not the actual cave itself, it is an exact replication and the tour is outstanding. The original is nearby and too environmentally sensitive to allow the hordes of tourists to visit and in doing so, the very breath of all these visitors would irreparably destroy the original cave paintings. Lascaux is the most well known of the caves in the area; but, there are others, as we found out. All require reservations to visit and all are worth taking the time to visit. Here’s a link to their official website:
http://www.lascaux.culture.fr/?lng=en#/fr/00.xml

Stage Three:  Montignac to Sarlat  25,9 km

Next day we headed out and retraced our ride uphill, nearly to where the road turns to Lascaux. No rain today. Yeah. We have some climbing to do today; before our downhill into Sarlat. This is Col de La Chapelle Abriel—what we call Col, anyway. They wouldn’t call it that in Tour de France, probably. The road is well maintained and the auto traffic is light. We reach pretty La Chapelle Abreil. At the top of the hill we take the right at the cemetery toward Marsillac & St Quentin. We stay on this road as it curves around and past a pond. There is some logging in the area, as well as pastures of cows. We ride on till we reach a stop sign and continue straight across toward Marsillac & St Quentin. There is yet another climb, as we haul ourselves up and over another ridge. At last we reach Marsillac and then stay on the D704 toward Sarlat. More climbing ahead. We reach Croix de St Quintin at the crest and then make a right and a gradual downhill for about 300 meters before we reach the junction of a regional road and turn left. There are no signs so we are hoping we are on track. We ride through some woods and eventually reach the very busy D704. After waiting for a small break in traffic, we enter and hold our ground with the cars. We are very thankful when we can make the turnoff to Temniac de Sarlat. We have found a back way that is less traveled to get to Sarlat de Canada. Sarlat is the capital of the Perigord Nord & the biggest city of our tour. We had another climb to Temniac and then we start our descent into the valley. This is Rue Guy Pierre Delluc. We are watching carefully for the turn off right onto the extremely steep Rue la Brand Quest. It is a relief to reach the bottom at the outskirts of Sarlat. This is Rue Antoine de Saint Exupery. What can I say, it was complicated with some one way streets to reach the pedestrianized town center of this busy town.

There are some sites to see as well as good shopping and eating in the town center. All are just a short walk along the pedestrian streets.
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Stage Four:  Sarlat to La Roque Gageac  22,1 km

We traveled slowly along the main pedestrian street to where it joins the D704, where we join. There is not a bicycle lane and we have become well adjusted to this in this region. We ride out of town, past the school and on till we reach the roundabout. We will be turning left here and then making a right, under the high rail overpass. This is where we leave the D704 and take Avenue Edmond Rostand, instead. This is a quiet road with some rolling hills. We continue past the Post Office and then on to a Y, where we take the right; Route de Combelongue. More rolling hills ahead. We are looking for the D704 toward Montfort. After about 7km into the ride, we reach a sports area with tennis courts. Just past is where we will be turning off left onto the D703 toward Montfort. We can see the Château that overlooks the town. It is privately owned, so there was no tour; but, it was very photogenic, on it’s perch.
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We left Montfort on the D703 and crested the hill then went down the windy other side for great views of the winding Dordogne river, far below. There is a turnout and viewpoint at the Cingle de Montfort for another great photo op and a chance for another view back to Château Montfort. Then we retraced our route back up the hill to the town of Montfort and then back down to the road junction where we turned toward Vitrac. At Vitrac Port, we turn to ride over the Dordogne River on the bridge. There are plenty of canoeists and rental companies. In July, it looked like a nice paddle, with no major rapids. We’re continuing on toward La Roque Gageac on the D46E. At the next intersection after the bridge we will meet another road & turn right. This is the D50. We’re beside the river and the cliffs rise up to our left. Along the river are several campsites and many people in canoes on the river. We arrive at Domme le Port. Domme itself, is way up on the hill. We’ll be heading there tomorrow. We arrive at Cenac on the D46 and then cross the Dordogne on the bridge. There’s a sign to La Roque Gageac to the left. The traffic picks up as we get close to town on the one road that runs through. The cliffs rise up, just behind the main street and are dotted with caves and the Dordogne River is just beside the main street to our left. This is one of France’s most picturesque towns.
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It’s a great opportunity to float the river or take a tour boat for a short trip. It is a busy town during the day; but, such a nice quiet place to spend the night. Next morning we awoke to see several colorful hot air balloons gliding overhead. What a way to see the beauty of this region.
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Stage Five:  La Roque Gageac to Beynac  23,7 km

We’re off next morning to yet another beautiful town; topped with a Château. One the way we will stop to visit the ancient hilltop town of Domme. We retrace the route we took into La Roque Gageac; across the Dorgogne and into Cenac. This time we will be following signs from here, up to Domme, via a series of switchbacks. Most was shaded and it was still early, so at least we missed having the sun beat down on us as we climbed. When we reach the top, we enter town through an ancient gate in the wall and are treated to a visit to another of Frances most beautiful villages. This historic medieval fortress offers amazing views over the valley.
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After spending time exploring and taking lots of pictures, we headed back down the hill to Cenac and then turning right, this time to ride the D50. Soon we’re heading up the Col de Creve Corps. After a climb through some woods, we enjoy the downhill and lo and behold, there is a group of riders on donkeys, no less. We cross over the old bridge over the Hue River at St Cybranet. We stay on the D50 through a crossroads and ride on to Castelnaud la Chapelle. The very impressive Castelnaud Château can be seen up on the hill. We’ll be visiting there tomorrow. We cross the bridge over the Dordogne and ride on till we reach the D703 and turn left. At the Y, we opt for a right turn and a visit to Park de Château de Marqueyssac on the hill. Where else? We made a visit to the Château and gardens, before retracing our steps down the hill and then headed off to our final destination today of Beynac. Cross under the rail underpass and soon the ancient Château of Beynac looms on the top of the hill above the town. Guess what: another of France’s most beautiful villages. This tour has an abundance. We easily found our lodging and then opted for another climb; but, on foot this time. We hiked up to the Château for a visit of the Château and grounds and another wonderful view.
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That night, over dinner, we were treated to more colorful hot air balloons overhead and then a nice walk beside the lovely Dordogne River.

Stage Six:  Beynac to Beynac  21,0 km

Today we will be touring several Châteaux in the area. We started by heading back over the river bridge at Castelnaud la Chapelle. From the bridge, it is a left and then a right, following the signs up and up to the Château Castelnaud. This is Route de Noix… that’s the Nut Route. That stands for the walnuts, so the Walnut Route. There are many walnut groves: an important regional product of the area. There is a tiny village, just outside the grounds and then we walked our bikes the final steep narrow path to the entrance and bike parking. This is one of the most visited Châteaux in southern France, so we were glad we arrived early. You can certainly see how this Château fended off enemies in medieval times. The commanding view would have made the element of surprise, impossible.
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We had the day, so we took our time to leisurely tour both the Château and grounds, before we headed back down the hill to Castelnaud la Chapelle. From here, we rode through town and out the other side, beside the river. We divert from the river and again climb up to visit Les Millandes; the former home of entertainer Josephine Baker. She was American & adopted by the French for her humanitarian efforts & work in the Resistance during the 2nd World War. The house is a museum and Josephine Baker’s life and work are portrayed in film, along with memorabilia of the time. They grounds are quite beautiful as well. The day had heated up a lot and we took advantage of the café on the grounds for a snack and refreshments. Then we were off to retrace our route down the hill, back to Castelnaud la Chapelle, and then across the bridge and back to Baynac.

Stage Seven: Beynac to Les Eyzies  21,1 km

We are heading back to Les Eyzies today. This time we will be staying an extra day and not just riding through. Les Eyzies has a well known museum, as well as some well known archeological sites, just outside of town. There are a few climbs today; but nothing major. We ride the D703 straight out of town, with the Dordogne to our left. There is no bike lane; but, traffic is not too heavy. We turn off toward St Cyprian on the D703E that takes us up to the Centre Ville. We make our way past the side of the church and continue on this road; the D48. There is another climb here and then a downhill. Eventually we come to a stop sign and continue straight. This is the D38. Once we enter Combenegre, there’s a sign to the left to Les Eyzies. That is reassuring, as we had not seen any signs for a very long time. More ups and downs before we are down amongst farmlands and campgrounds. Then we’re entering Les Eyzies, outskirts. We’re turning right at this T junction for a side trip to the ticket office for the local caves. This to the right is the Font du Gaume cave. Tickets were sold out for today and we were advised that they release a few early the next morning, so we made a plan to be there to line up early. We then headed in to town on the busy D703 to check in to our hotel and visit the well appointed museum on the hill and check out the town. Next morning we were in line early for tickets and were lucky to get appointments to see three separate cave locations today. None were as well known or extensive as Lascaux; but, all were original and very interesting. We were glad we had thought to bring my reading headlamp, as the caves can have uneven footing and lighting is dim. All pretty amazing. Eyzies also has a wonderful museum featuring prehistoric finds.
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Stage Seven: Les Eyzies to Toulouse

This is all by rail. There is not a lot of rail service in this region; but, there is a station in Les Eyzies; right by our hotel. We had allowed a day for sightseeing in Toulouse. We had been there before; but, there are lots of things to see.
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